The world has been obsessed with plant-based meats and sustainable dining. Yet when it comes to going vegetarian, gourmands are a lot more resistant to the change. For years, the idea of good food is tied with the best meats and seafood while vegetarian dishes are often deemed as ‘bland and boring’.
Yet these best restaurants around the world have taken up the cause and come up with delicious vegetarian menus. Some others have taken a step further by going entirely plant-based with no meat. The Michelin Guide has, over the years, given their nod of approval to these restaurants. Here, we pull together some of the noteworthy establishments from around the globe that have taken up the plant-based route with culinary creations that are as healthy as they are satisfying.
Shanghai’s modern Chinese restaurant Wujie preaches its message of wellness and balance from interior design to food. Behind the zen-like atmosphere, Wujie’s kitchens are furiously whipping up innovative dishes which sees inspirations from all over the world while upholding traditional Chinese philosophies. Expect stunning dishes like house-made tofu with porcini mushrooms or braised ‘patty’ of black truffle and lion’s mane.
This contemporary French restaurant is a considerable outlier in Vienna, where most restaurants attract diners with exquisite cuts of meat. Tian (a transliteration of the Chinese word for heaven) uses a myriad of rare vegetables, fruits and grains sustainably sourced from around the region and from their own garden as well. There’s only one menu here, promising plant-based dishes that are not just wholesome but also indulgent. Wine pairings are recommended here.
Balwoo Gongyang in Seoul is the only Michelin-starred restaurant serving temple cuisine, preserving centuries-old Korean recipes in its cause. The restaurant, which is run by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, is a Zen-like sanctuary in downtown Seoul. Dishes are designed to invigorate the body as diners settle into the peaceful atmosphere. A humble bowl of porridge helps with digestion while the main course, youmi, sees an array of small dishes meant to ease stress and fatigue.
This traditional Japanese restaurant is dedicated to fully vegetarian kaiseki menus, inspired by Buddhist philosophies and cuisines. Fourth-generation owner Nomura Yusuke procures all ingredients daily from Toyosu Market (which was formerly the famed Tsukiji Fish Market). Despite not having fish or meat on the menu, the kitchen manages to work in well-loved Japanese dishes with vegetables. Take for instance fresh soba noodles topped with grated yam and Japanese mustard or a rice soup dish with aromatic nameko mushrooms. Daigo still uses dried bonito and eggs in their dishes, but more staunch diners can request for these ingredients to be excluded on their menus.
The dining world was shocked by the legendary French chef Alain Passard’s move to turn his three-Michelin-starred establishment vegetarian in 2001. Since then, the restaurant continues to hold on to the prestigious accolade and stands as proof that going vegetarian can be inspiring in the culinary world too. Passard has since been a little lax on the no-meat rule, fish and poultry are back on the menu albeit in small ways. Vegetables are still the main highlight here, especially when they come fresh daily from Passard’s own bio-dynamic farms. Despite the fine-dining stamp, a la carte options are still available.
Alain Ducasse surprised loyal diners as well when he switched his award-winning restaurant for a vegetable and cereal-based cuisine in 2014. The restaurant is still about French fine-dining but driven by the ideals of shojin cuisine, a spiritual Japanese philosophy on cooking vegetables. As such, the restaurant goes for sustainability and fresh vegetables here are exclusively sourced from the Château de Versailles gardens. There is still fish on the menu, but vegetarians will find plenty of options to satiate their appetite.